The Dam That Flooded Denver

Castlewood Dam ruins can still be found in Castlewood Canyon State Park. Photo Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Less than an hour from Denver, there’s a place called Castlewood Canyon State Park. If you haven’t been there yet, we highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful place. However, inside of Castlewood Canyon State Park, you’ll find the ruins of a dam that brought Denver to its knees. Built in 1890, it took 43 years for this dam to come crashing down.

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A stone dam built to hold back over a billion gallons of water, the Castlewood Canyon Dam met its match with a storm on August 3rd, 1933. As water continued to fall, the dam met its capacity and burst, sending a wall of water as high as 15 feet tall towards Denver.

After traveling more than 30 miles through the wilderness, this wall of more than a billion gallons of water eventually reached Denver, blasting through the city while pulling logs, rocks, and debris with it. It punched holes in buildings and tore down bridges, causing mass destruction.

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The Dam That Flooded Denver

The high walls of Castlewood Dam. Photo Credit: ezweave.

When all was said and done, parts of Denver were under four feet of water. Surprisingly, only one person was killed, though the amount of damage caused by the flooding and the destructive blow of the first wave was too much to accurately measure. It took a team of 2,500 people months to clean and repair damages.

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The Dam That Flooded Denver

A small waterfall in early fall at Castlewood Canyon State Park. Photo Credit: Chiricahua.

If you’d like to see the ruins of this dam today, it’s accessible via a 0.3 mile hike close to the western entrance of the park.

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